A Midsummer Night's Dream

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A Midsummer Night's Dream Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of William Shakespeare
Shakespeare's father was a glove-maker, and Shakespeare received no more than a grammar school education. He married Anne Hathaway in 1582, but left his family behind around 1590 and moved to London, where he became an actor and playwright. He was an immediate success: Shakespeare soon became the most popular playwright of the day as well as a part-owner of the Globe Theater. His theater troupe was adopted by King James as the King's Men in 1603. Shakespeare retired as a rich and prominent man to Stratford-upon-Avon in 1613, and died three years later.
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Other Books Related to A Midsummer Night's Dream
Unlike many of Shakespeare's plays, there's no single source for the plot of A Midsummer Night's Dream. But Shakespeare did take various tales and characters from a wide number of sources and stitch them together to create his play. For instance, the characters of Theseus and Hippolyta come from an English translation of Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe and the name of Titania comes from Ovid's Metamorphoses, the story of a man turned into an ass is told in Apuleius's Golden Ass, and Oberon's name comes from a medieval French romance entitled Huon of Bordeaux. Further, a plot that hinges on two lovers fighting to marry according to their will and in defiance of their fathers was standard in both Greek and Roman drama (and also drove the plot of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet).
Key Facts about A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Full Title: A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • When Written: Early to mid 1590s
  • Where Written: England
  • When Published: 1600 (though it was first performed earlier, probably between 1594-96).
  • Literary Period: The Renaissance (1500 - 1660)
  • Genre: Comic drama
  • Setting: The city of Athens and the forest just outside, in some distant, ancient time when it was ruled by the mythological hero Theseus.
Extra Credit for A Midsummer Night's Dream

Shakespeare or Not? There are some who believe Shakespeare wasn't educated enough to write the plays attributed to him. The most common anti-Shakespeare theory is that Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, wrote the plays and used Shakespeare as a front man because aristocrats were not supposed to write plays. Yet the evidence supporting Shakespeare's authorship far outweighs any evidence against. So until further notice, Shakespeare is still the most influential writer in the English language.

A Midsummer Night's Parallel. Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet around the same time he wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare mocks tragic love stories through the escapades of the lovers in the forests and the ridiculous version of Pyramus and Thisbe (a tragic romance from Ovid's The Metamorphoses) that Bottom and his company perform. So at the same time Shakespeare was writing the greatest love story ever told, he was also mocking the conventions of such love stories. It's almost as if Shakespeare was saying, "Yeah, it's tired, it's old, and I can still do it better than anyone else ever could."